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Canberra has no issue with Huawei for Perth transport contract

Western Australian transport minister says federal government agencies have no security concerns around Chinese telco Huawei winning a Perth Transport Authority contract.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Asha McLean/ZDNet

The government of Western Australia has downplayed security worries around the expected award of a AU$120 million Perth Transport Authority contract to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

The company is on the shortlist to upgrade radio communications on Perth's rail system, but there have been suggestions it could be blocked from providing some equipment for Australia's new 5G wireless network because of national security concerns.

Labor Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said she couldn't comment on the preferred tender as the process was still underway but told reporters on Thursday federal government agencies had advised they weren't fazed by the prospect of Huawei winning the contract.

Saffioti said the state government had contacted federal agencies as recently as Wednesday to "quadruple check" if there were any security concerns.

"We have been in constant dialogue with the federal government," she said. "We're making sure the federal government is entirely comfortable with the process.

"We can only take the advice that we're given from those agencies."

Earlier on Thursday, federal Labor Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles has no issue with the idea of extending Huawei's ban from tendering for NBN work -- installed by the then-Labor government in 2012 -- into upcoming 5G network builds.

Marles told Sky News on Thursday that he agreed with the proposal "on the face of it".

"Given that it replicates a decision that was made under the Labor Government, the answer was yes," he said.

"Certainly when we were in government that's what we did, and a call of that kind was previously made in relation to Huawei and national security clearly matters. This is a fundamental piece of infrastructure. If we were in government we'd be listening to those national security agencies to get their advice on this."

Marles further added that it was correct that Australia locked Huawei out of building a subsea cable between Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands by digging into its foreign aid budget to find approximately AU$200 million to pay for two-thirds of the cost of the cable.

In February, the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence to the Senate Intelligence Committee recommended Americans not use products from Huawei and ZTE.

"We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," FBI Director Christopher Wray said at the time.

"That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage."

With AAP

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